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Keep Illinois pension case on fast track

The Illinois Supreme Court is serious about fast-tracking its review of the state pension reform law.

If there was any doubt, the high court removed it this week when it refused requests from outside groups and individuals to file briefs in the case. That keeps the case on track for a March hearing.

Thank goodness, because the court’s decision is more important than ever as it becomes apparent that Illinois is in a lot worse shape than anyone realized. The University of Illinois Institute of Government and Public Affairs, in a report aptly titled Apocalypse Now?” concludes that the deficit in the current fiscal year is about $6 billion, not the $2 billion to $3 billion that the people were led to believe. The state would have a deficit of $14 billion a year by fiscal 2026 on the current trajectory, the report states. In addition, Illinois has IOUs of $159 billion—more than twice the revenues for one year.

“Changes in awareness, expectations, and policy are needed to restore fiscal balance in Illinois,” is part of the authors’ conclusion. No kidding. But to find that balance, Gov. Bruce Rauner and the General Assembly need to know if they will be able to implement changes to the cost-of-living adjustments for retirees and other steps to rein in skyrocketing pension costs.

Let’s hope the court takes the state’s dire financial circumstances into account and agrees that reducing new pension costs is essential to the state’s survival.